The Music of Halachah: The Focus of Hallel Part Three
Hallel as Sanctification
Rabbi Daniel HaBavli1 derives the Biblical obligation to sing Hallel from a different verse: “You shall not profane My holy Name, and I shall be sanctified amongst the Jewish people. I am God Who sanctifies you.” (Vayikra 22:32) The prohibition against profaning God’s Name is that we shall not allow a vacuum to exist around God’s Name. If we do not sanctify God’s Name we allow a vacuum to develop. We create a Chilul – a vacuum – whenever we do not grow. The only way not to profane God’s Name is to sanctify it. Why does the verse add, “I shall be sanctified”? This is teaching a special Mitzvah to sanctify God’s Name. There is no greater way to sanctify God’s Name than with the Hallel. This is the Biblical source of the commandment to sing Hallel.
“Holy, Holy, Holy, God, Master of Hosts, whose Glory fills the earth.” The Targum of Yonatan ben Uziel explains the three expressions of Holy as, “Holy in the highest heavens the abode of His Presence, Holy on the earth the product of God’s strength, and Holy forever and ever.”
The Maharal2 points out that we find all three levels of sanctity in the Hallel:
“May the Name of God be blessed from now and forever,” corresponds to the third Holy: “Holy forever and ever.”
“From the rising of the sun until its setting God’s Name is praised,” corresponds to the second Holy: “Holy on the earth the product of God’s strength.”
“God is exalted above all the nations, His Glory is on the heavens, “ corresponds to the first Holy: ““Holy in the highest heavens the abode of His Presence.”
The Maharal continues by pointing out that these three levels of holiness are repeated throughout the Hallel. The Hallel is constantly referring to one level of Holiness or another.
The Zohar Harakia3 also teaches that the obligation to say Hallel is Biblical. He bases this on the verse, “In the fourth year of a vineyard or tree, the fruit of the tree shall be holy Hilulim” (Vayikra 19:24) – Hilulim is the plural of Hallel. He teaches that you should say Hallel when your tree produces fruit in its fourth year and that will make it holy. Hallel is the process of taking what you have and sanctifying it.
The Jerusalem Talmud4 derives from the word “Hilulim” that you should make your fruit holy by singing Hallel just as you sing when you make an offering in the Temple. Sing Hallel when you eat a fruit and sanctify what you are about to eat. We do this by making a blessing. The Jerusalem Talmud understands a blessing as a miniature Hallel.
“The servants of God shall praise God, praise the Name of God.” We are praising God for two reasons: The first reason is that now we are no longer the servants of Pharaoh but the servants of God. Whenever you praise God for a specific reason you should also praise God’s Name because God is God. Don’t limit yourself by the immediate reason leading you to sing Hallel: The immediate thing you are celebrating, whether a fruit or a miracle, should be a trigger to praise God because God is God. If I take something good that happened to me as a trigger to praise God, I am sanctifying the fruit or the experience that triggered the praise.
You are taking your gifts and sanctifying them. You are changing your existence. You are going from earth to heaven and then to eternal existence: The three levels of Holy.
It is interesting to note that we derive the power of a blessing from a verse in the Hallel: “The heavens belong to God and the earth is given to man.” When do we make the earth ours? When we make a blessing.
The Talmud5 teaches that Israel sang the Hallel as they brought their Paschal Offering. How did they know that they should do that? The Talmud answers with a question: “Can you imagine a Jew bringing a Paschal Offering and not singing the Hallel? Can you imagine a Jew shaking a Lulav and not singing Hallel?” The joy of taking a Lulav naturally leads us to sing Hallel!
1 Maaseh Nissim2 Gevurot Hashem, Chapter 623 Positive Commandment 164 Peah 7:55 Pesachim 95b